Air Force Wants Custom-Built Online Game Environment to Test Out New Capabilities

380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron F-15E Strike Eagle weapons load crew members attach a munition to a F-15E at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.

380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron F-15E Strike Eagle weapons load crew members attach a munition to a F-15E at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates. Chris Thornbury/Air Force

The branch will host a three-phase interactive challenge to identify possible solutions.

To better keep up with the rapid pace of technological advancements in its warfighting capabilities, the Air Force wants its own online game environment where military personnel can test out new concepts and evaluate their potential at much faster speeds than they’re currently operating. 

The branch’s Warfighting Integration Capability, or AFWIC, will host an open AFWERX challenge in three phases over the next two months to engage directly with industry and academia stakeholders and identify solutions that could directly meet its unique needs.  

“The future of the United States Air Force is dependent on investing in solutions that enable the warfighter to meet the threats of the future,” Air Force officials said in a special notice solicitation announcing the challenge. “A current problem to be resolved is the long timeline for the down-selection process of future concepts because they cannot keep pace with the exponential increase in technological developments aimed at providing our warfighters with a winning edge.” 

To address the need, AFWIC will host an interactive challenge to produce an online game development environment that includes a game engine and custom, evolving toolkits for insiders to use to test concepts around a wide range of capabilities. The concepts include (but are not limited to) munitions, sensing technologies and air platforms. The service wants the environment to: 

  • Allow for the rapid build and release of distributed, multiplayer games.
  • Integrate siloed data at various classification statuses across commercial and federal databases.
  • Be highly scalable and meet all necessary security requirements.
  • Provide automated adjudication of players’ moves. 

The hope is that the interactive solution will support troops in assessing new concepts on a much shorter timeline—a matter of “weeks,” as the solicitation puts it—with more speed and fidelity. 

“Gaming scenarios built around these concepts will be distributed to warfighters to provide human-in-the-loop data in an online wargaming environment,” officials said. 

The Air Force is connecting with its startup-like AFWERX program to host an engagement event on the future of war-gaming in mid-October to connect directly with individuals, startups, small businesses and large enterprises. They aim to identify and assess possible solutions and also collaborate on future partnerships. According to the solicitation, “this event will provide an opportunity to engage directly with the USAF and be involved in helping shape the future of USAF software acquisition.”

From there, AFWIC will invite specific attendees and interested vendors to participate in a competitive solicitation. And in mid-November, the Air Force will host an in-person demonstration showcase to evaluate “tailored technical [approaches]” that could bring about its ideal solution.

The branch will not pay company costs associated with the three phases over the course of the challenge, however, insiders said they are open to conversations around game commercialization as a result of the work. 

“The innovative solutions uncovered in this challenge will provide a game development environment for AFWIC to help down-select concepts and shape the Air Force of the future,” officials said.